A political showdown is looming in the Azimio la Umoja movement as affiliate parties slug it out in regions perceived as friendly to the formation rooting for former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The fast-growing Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K) is punching well above its weight, raiding Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) strongholds in Western at will.
Although DAP-K supports Mr Odinga, the latest move by its leaders to open offices in ODM bases has sparked tension in the coalition. The region voted overwhelmingly for Mr Odinga in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 polls.
Last Friday, DAP-K took the battle to ODM’s doorstep in Butere, opening an office in the backyard of deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya. DAP-K has branded itself as the alternative party to ODM, Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford-Kenya, the leading outfits in the region.
The party led by Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa has netted former Ford-Kenya and ANC leaders, including Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi and Tongaren’s Eseli Simiyu, who is the secretary-general.
Former Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya, former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende, MPs Ayub Savula (Lugari), Mr Oku Kaunya (Teso South), Peter Nabulindo (Matungu) and Tindi Mwale (Butere) have also joined it. Despite the sibling rivalry, sources say ODM might not field candidates in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties. Interestingly, DAP-Kenya, which has been touted as Mr Odinga’s project to tame Ford-Kenya and ANC in the region, is turning out to be a serious rival to ODM.
DAP-K recently put up a notice inviting all eligible candidates interested in vying on its ticket to submit their applications. The only position it will not be fielding a candidate in is the presidency. Dr Simiyu denied claims that the outfit will only concentrate on Trans Nzoia and Bungoma.
“Last Friday, DAP-K was in Kakamega and it will be in Busia this coming Friday,” he said. He added that parties under Azimio have no formal agreement on how to handle elections or field candidates. Mr Savula told supporters in Butere, Matungu and Malava that he chose DAP-K because “it is a home-grown party”.
“In Baba’s Azimio, there are many houses, but I chose DAP-K because that is Luhya’s bedroom,” he said. The Lugari MP, who defected from ANC, will be in the Kakamega gubernatorial race. The four counties of Western have over 2.7 million voters, with Kakamega leading with 841,139 votes. It remains crucial for all the presidential hopefuls and any sibling rivalry may play into the hands of Azimio’s rivals.
Mr Odinga’s campaign team has already mapped out the country into three zones based on perceived support for his presidential bid, to guide his campaigns. The zoning will also help to identify popular parties under the Azimio banner. Mr Salim Odeny, a political commentator, said ODM has every reason to be worried about DAP-K.
“The more the new party gains popularity, the more the Luhya community will start identifying with it,” he said. “Those contesting for seats will have to be in either Azimio la Umoja or Kenya Kwanza Alliance (led by deputy President William Ruto). In Western, discontented politicians in Azimio will feel safe in DAP-K.”
He added that politicians will feel safe in DAP-K as they feel it is a “homegrown party” while ODM is considered a “foreign” outfit.
Mr Oparanya has been Mr Odinga’s point man in Western, but analysts feel he has not been doing enough to stop the growing popularity of DAP-K.
“Even as ODM drives the Azimio ideology of unity, they should not lose sight of their own party. They should work towards strengthening their structures on the ground so that it does not lose touch with the people,” said Mr Odeny.